The Associates degree in Fashion Design that I completed before transferring to ASU was focused in conceptual design, trade skills and preparation for employment in the fashion industry. The school offered no courses to explore the theory of fashion design; there was no opportunity to discuss the context of the fashion industry as a social institution and how designing and making clothes affects American culture. The primary motivation for my transfer to ASU was to critically analyze the fashion industry; I wanted to view it from the other side of the looking glass.
The questions that I am exploring are: historically, how has fashion acted as a social control? How has the subjection of a population related to the cultural laws or mores concerning appropriate attire? How is fashion a social skin? Is there a separation between body adornment and fashion? What makes up an individual’s visual presentation? How does an individual’s environment shape his/her/ze’s visual presentation? Who has authority over what the social significance of garments and/or body adornment means? Is visual presentation limited to the race, gender, class stereotypes? What elements of a person’s visual presentation have higher social significance in situating their gender? Is gender only the visual presentation and daily performance of the individual? How is fashion used to perpetuate a dichotomous understanding of gender and can it be used to deconstruct the binary gender system? How is the body negated or emphasized by person’s visual presentation?
The classes that make the core of my study are a combination of philosophy, religion, history, gender studies, body studies, and apparel construction courses. These courses provide multiple perspectives in my attempt to answer the above questions. I originally applied to ASU as a sociology major, but quickly discovered that my exploration of these questions was limited by the meager options in the sociology department to talk about fashion, visual presentation and the body. The sociology minor that I am earning to complement my IDS major is enabling me to acquire useful research skills, social observation skills, and sociological theories of fashion as a social control. The full breadth of my exploration, however, required the combination of multiple disciplines. Each department had a few classes to offer, but no single department facilitated an education that answered the questions I have about the fashion industry.
The overreaching motivation of my degree is to enter the fashion industry as an aware participant- conscious of the effects of the fashion industry in terms of race, gender, class, historical precedence, and economic motivations. The education I received at FIT prepared me to enter the industry as a well skilled designer, but as a pre-programmed cog in the machine; I would have been perpetuating a system that I knew little about and with little awareness of the consequences of my design choices. I understand that I am idealistic in my hope to affect change on a massive social institution, but feel that a solid foundation in theory and analytical skill is the best place to start.